Putin has led Russia as president or prime minister since December 1999. At the end of his fifth term


Moscow(ANN)-President Vladimir Putin extended his reign over Russia in a landslide election whose outcome was never in doubt, declaring Monday his determination to advance deeper into Ukraine and dangling new threats against the West.
After the harshest crackdown on dissent since Soviet times, it was clear from the earliest returns that Putin’s nearly quarter-century rule would continue with a fifth term that grants him six more years. Still, Russians heeded a call to protest Putin’s repression and his war in Ukraine by showing up at polling stations at noon on Sunday.

With all the precincts counted Monday, election officials said Putin had secured a record number of votes, underlining his total control over the political system. U.S. and other Western leaders denounced the election as a sham.

The election was “neither free nor fair in any sort of way,” said Nigel Gould-Davies, a senior fellow at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London.

Ahead of the election, Putin’s greatest political foe, Alexei Navalny, died in an Arctic penal colony, anti-war candidates were barred from the ballot and independent voices were silenced in a Kremlin-backed media blockade. No independent monitoring organizations were able to observe the election and analysts said online polling meant the vote was highly susceptible to manipulation. Any public criticism of Putin or his war in Ukraine has been stifled.


Putin appeared Monday evening on Red Square in the heart of Moscow at a concert to mark the tenth year since he annexed Crimea from Ukraine. Putin’s three token challengers for the presidency appeared on stage beside him and publicly supported him after campaigns in which none of them criticized him.

Putin has led Russia as president or prime minister since December 1999. At the end of his fifth term, he would be the longest-serving Russian leader since Catherine the Great, who ruled during the 18th century.

Emboldened by his sweeping victory, Putin said he planned to carve out a buffer zone in Ukraine to protect Russia from cross-border shelling and attacks. Asked if an open clash could erupt between Russia and NATO, Putin responded curtly by saying: “Everything is possible in today’s world,” adding: “it’s clear to everyone that it will put us a step away from full-scale World War III.”

Russian officials said they recruited over 500,000 volunteers for the army last year, but many expect Putin to mobilize more forces to attempt to push deeper into Ukraine. Analysts say that in the post-election period, Russian authorities could introduce unpopular measures such as raising taxes.

The Kremlin, Gould-Davies said, is now “increasingly confident,” adding Russian officials have “learned just how passive the population is and how effective their own repression is.”

Russia’s Central Election Commission said Monday that with all the precincts counted, Putin got 87% of the vote. Central Election Commission chief Ella Pamfilova said that nearly 76 million voters cast their ballots for Putin.

Source: AP